Monday, August 17, 2015

Bojack Horseman: A Broad Review of Seasons 1 and 2

The title theme song represented the show better than any poster.

            In a world where cable is dying and shelf space for DVDs and Blu-rays is running low, streaming services have arisen from the web to provide diverse and wonderful television. Where else would a show like Bojack Horseman even prosper anywhere besides Netflix? The premise of a burnout television star horse is already alienating enough, but the show evolves so roughly that any TV network would have canceled it after five episodes, which would have been their loss.  Bojack Horseman is an exhilarating adult animated comedy that takes the genre at its current state and genuinely pushes it forward.  It begins as a dark yet spot on parody of Hollywood celebrity but develops into a brilliant character driven satire that equally resembles Mad Men and Fantastic Mr. Fox, but with more cussing.
            At first glance, Bojack Horseman is not much. The first three episodes are funny but in a crass style that is generic compared to shows like Archer, Venture Bros, or at worse… Family Guy.  However by episode four the show-writers commit to a serialized style of storytelling that gives the show weight like no other animated comedy on air. As the show progresses the stories of each character pressurize with tension until they cathartically burst.  Bojack Horseman is a comedy driven by character and plot, not gags, and delves into themes like depression, Internet culture and the psyche of comedians. If nothing else it is the only show online where a talking cat lady can break up with a horseman for a guy that is clearly just three kids hiding inside a trench coat and somehow play that narrative funny and straight with perfect ease.
            Speaking of business, apparently Netflix has some hidden contract that every great comedian in Hollywood must lend a voice in Bojack Horseman.  The voice cast is just impeccable.  Will Arnett is perfect as Bojack; the role plays to his creepy acerbic humor and reveals emotional boundaries that are unexpected from him.  Amy Sedaris as the cat Princess Caroline has this fast and cutting wit that would make Howard Hawks proud. The highlight though is easily Aaron Paul as the stoned out Todd; Paul straddles between mellow and hammy so well that he brings this corrupted childlike vibe that is always funny. This however does not diminish the rest of the cast including Paul F. Thompkins, Allision Brie, Patton Oswalt, Kristen Schaal and countless guest performances that just baffle the mind.
            Bojack is a fascinating character because underneath the vulgar jokes about his alcoholism, self-destructive behavior, and insecure ego, the show makes no qualms in stating that these are signs of deep depression.  A running gag with Bojack is flashbacks of abuse he received from his parents, which are comically nasty at first, but it quickly stops being funny once these flashbacks delve into how they belittled Bojack and their violently real arguments. In the first episode of season two, his mom talks to the now adult Bojack on the phone and admits that she was a monstrous mother; it is one the most disarming moments on television this year and it is only the first episode of the second season. The show searches for emotions behind its own humor, regardless of how ugly it is and reveals it with naked honesty, which is why Bojack Horseman is great.
            Bojack Horseman is an ambitious piece of work that pushes beyond episodic gag comedy and allows character drama to build, which made for some of brilliant serialized television.  It questions a backwards notion that TV animation can only reach a South Park level of maturity and finds an oddly introspective outlook that is beautifully honest. The show is still funny as hell but it is not afraid to reveal the hell it takes to reach that level of humor, which is more than can be said about most of Fox’s comedy lineup lately. So check this show out, it is raw but it is easily one of the most exciting shows on TV. It is a show that will fill a void that one never knew they had at all, which is what makes trying such risky shows and movies so fun.
            (Bojack Horseman is available on Netflix)